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Oak Lawn to fell nearly 500 trees infested by borer

(From March 15, 2012)

Infestation by the invasive emerald ash borer has prompted Oak Lawn to plan felling almost five times as many trees this year as it did in 2011.

Oak Lawn village forester Heather Green on Tuesday told the Village Board that between 460 and 500 trees are infested by the beetle and will have to be cut down. That number is up from the roughly 100 the village chopped down last year, she added.

Green presented village officials a map showing the locations of infested ash trees. The tree-killing beetle is present in all six trustee districts, with one of the largest areas of infestation involving 202 ash trees between 105th and 111th streets along Laverne Avenue, Green said. The village has the funding to remove the trees, but not replace them, she added.

"We have $50,000 in the budget to remove the trees, and an additional $40,000 to trim the trees," Green said. "That is all part of the budget for this year. We will not be using any external funds or grant money this year."

Adult emerald ash borers - green, shiny beetles that came here from Asia - infect ash trees by laying their eggs on the bark of healthy specimens. The larvae then burrow beneath the bark, feeding on the nutrients of the trees and damaging their nutrient transport system starting with the upper trunk and tree limbs. The damage causes the trees to starve, and the dying trees and branches are brittle and break easily.

"They eat the blood vessels of the tree, what brings nutrients and water to the tree," Green explained. "Once that is gone, the tree dies.

Green said she is working on securing grant funding for 2013. She hopes to get $30,000 in community development block grant fund, to plant new trees where the infested trees are being removed.